National leader Christopher Luxon defends 'high calibre Māori' comment after criticism

Christoper Luxon is defending himself after criticism for using the phrase "high calibre Māori".

On Monday the National leader told Te Ao Māori News over the summer some "high-powered" Māori have reached out to him to express interest in becoming MPs.

"Some really awesome high-calibre Māori reached out to me over summer. What's been interesting is it's since the leadership change, the reset and since we're focused on the right things, which is the people of New Zealand, not the National Party," Luxon told the outlet.

The phrasing has attracted some criticism online with several people questioning which Māori are considered high or low calibre and who decides.

"What the f**k is 'high calibre' Maori? Are you saying the rest are low calibre?" one person asked.

"Just another awkward or demeaning comment from Luxon.  WTF are 'high-calibre Māori'?  I suspect they are Māori people who have tertiary educations and own multiple houses," another said.

"What constitutes a high calibre Māori, Mr luxon we need the criteria now," someone else said.

But speaking with AM on Wednesday Luxon said he simply meant high calibre people.

"What I mean is high calibre people across New Zealand have been reaching out to us wanting to become candidates.

"I think we had 275 people actually express interest and start on a programme called National 101 to explore whether they wanted to be a candidate. It's just a good sign, it means that we have good people and high calibre people across the country from all communities exploring wanting to be part of the National Party so I am really excited by that."

Luxon also said he's focused on ensuring national has representation from all communities across Aotearoa.

"We want to be a national National Party, we've got to get to all communities and if we've got really great talent wanting to join us or considering joining us that's a really good thing."

It comes after National's public struggle with diversity. Last year a review into the party's performance in 2020 - their worst election result in 18 years - recommended they focus on increasing diversity and bring in "diverse, high-quality talent regardless of the election result".

National currently has 33 seats in Parliament. Of those, just nine are women - 27 percent. In contrast, Labour has 55 percent, the Greens 70 percent and ACT 40 percent.

There are also more people in the National Party caucus named 'Chris' and 'Simon' than there are Māori and more Todds (two) than MPs of Asian descent.